Boys' basketball storylines: Central to honor former coach

Boys' basketball storylines: Central to honor former coach

CHAMPAIGN — Beginning with the 1992-93 school year, Scott Davis continued a tradition of boys' basketball excellence at Champaign Central. The eventual 21-year Maroon coach posted a 330-234 record and led Central to third place at the Class 3A state tournament in 2008.

For those accomplishments and more, Central will recognize Davis during tonight's Big 12 tilt against Peoria Richwoods at Combes Gymnasium.

Davis, still the school's boys' tennis coach, is set to retire from that post and his Central teaching duties later this year. The setup offered a perfect moment to give Davis his due for his Maroon hoops achievements.

"I've been taken aback," Davis said. "I used to laugh — they've got the gym named for Harry Combes, and the floor is named for Lee Cabutti. I said, 'I'll take a urinal.'"

Tonight's ceremony is likely to be a little more dignified than that, befitting a Central alumnus who pushed the Maroons to 10 or more victories in 18 of his 21 seasons, including seven regional crowns.

It's tough for Davis to nail down one on-court moment that stands out most from his tenure. Among his suggestions were a victory over Mahomet-Seymour back when future Illini Brett Melton was a Bulldog, as well as a 2008 3A sectional final at Mount Zion in which Central defeated nationally-ranked Decatur Eisenhower that featured future Purdue guard Lewis Jackson.

Davis also has some good news for Jeff Finke's current Central squad, which carries a 15-7 record into tonight and has won its last five games.

"I see this present Central team, and I see some parallels to the team I coached to third at state," Davis said. "I think they've got good talent and they play well together. I see that parallel in basically two teams that played an incredibly difficult schedule to get through the postseason."

Sages finding their stride

When coach Kevin Roy's Monticello group dropped a 37-35 home decision to Ridgeview in late December, it could have caused the Sages to spiral into struggles.

Of course, Monticello has several returnees from last season's Class 2A state-qualifying team. So the Sages weren't about to let a defeat on their own floor ruin what could be a promising follow-up to 2017's success.

That's shone through quite clearly. Monticello (18-1) has reeled off 11 straight triumphs since falling to the Mustangs and sits at sixth in the latest 2A Associated Press statewide poll. Among those were victories against St. Joseph-Ogden and Quincy Notre Dame, a pair of foes in the 2A state rankings discussion.

"Those were the two biggest games of the season for us," Roy said. "I can't say we've struggled, but our schedule has had several lapses in it. It's been hard for our guys to get in a routine or rhythm."

Among those stretches were a weeklong break in early December, nine days between games in late December and 10 days without a contest in mid-January. Yet the Sages are persevering, like one would expect from a battle-tested crew.

Senior Calvin Fisher's 15.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game pace that charge, with senior Luke Stokowski (11.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and junior Benton Singleton (9.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) also chipping in. Roy has seen the best from that trio and the rest of the Sages when it's mattered most this season.

"We talk about raising our level each game, and we're continuing to improve," Roy said. "Games before, we've taken some time off and not been focused in ... on what we need to do. It's good to see the guys be focused."

That will be required over the next week, with an Illini Prairie Conference showdown tonight at home against Bloomington Central Catholic, before playing St. Teresa (Saturday) and Unity (Tuesday). Roy is centered on those events, and not what could be for this talented squad, which on Thursday netted a No. 2 seed in the 2A tournament.

"These kids have that (state) experience, and now they have the drive to do it again," Roy said. "Being in Peoria would be great, but we have to focus on where we are right here, right now."

Comets roll in second half

Midway through the Monticello Holiday Hoopla event in late December, coach Craig Black's Oakwood team sat at 5-7 after three consecutive setbacks.

A little more than a month later, the Comets are 16-9 and in position to capture the Vermilion Valley Conference crown — in addition to the Vermilion County Tournament title they earned last month.

"Our first goal was to win county, and the next is to win the conference," said Black, whose team is tied with Milford atop the VVC at 9-1 and hold a tiebreaker with the Bearcats. "It'd be awesome if we can win the conference, or at least tie for it. I think we can close the season 5-0."

Black delivered that proclamation prior to Tuesday's 69-41 success against Chrisman and Wednesday's 53-51 victory over Salt Fork.

With Oakwood's final three foes — Westville, Georgetown-Ridge Farm and Schlarman — combining for just 12 wins so far this season, Black very well could be proven prophetic with his statement.

The Comets' sudden burst of dominance arrived at the perfect moment, with 2A postseason tournament seeds coming out Thursday. Oakwood obtained a No. 3 seed, certainly aided by 10 victories over a 12-game stretch.

"I think it had a lot to do with our defense," Black said. "We were holding teams, especially in the first half, to not very many points. So I think that's probably been the biggest key for us throughout."

Oakwood's recent rally has gone beyond team results, too. Senior Chase Vinson recently eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career, becoming the 12th male Comet to reach that plateau.

"He puts in the work, and it's definitely well-deserved," Black said. "I'm glad to see him have some success with that."